Basketball was only a distant memory in Brescia: the fans of Basket Brescia relying on their old memories, recalling the mythical heroes of Pinti Inox, when they still played in the historical arena named “Ciambellone” in the EIB area. Basketball had been absent for almost 20 years from the city, which lies in the shadow of Mount Cidneo, when this void was filled by two ‘adventurers’: Graziella Bragaglio and Matteo Bonetti, who founded Centrale del Latte Basket Brescia Leonessa.
Love and enthusiasm for basketball was rekindled. The first groups of fans, who started to fill the San Filippo arena, were quickly joined by more and more, with each passing game: basketball in Brescia was no longer a memory, but a reality. The beginning of this great adventure has a precise starting date: 9 July 2009. It all started again from Serie A Amateurs.
The performance of the team during its first year was extremely positive: the good work done during the summer produced great results; the boys, led by coach Furlani on the bench and by Quaroni and Musso on the court, meant that the team reached fifth place, and qualification for the Playoffs. Here Brescia played well in three games, but eventually succumbed to Paffoni Omegna, a much more experienced team, and who were accustomed to such situations.
The excellent results encouraged the management to raise its ambitions and to strengthen the team, with the aim of taking Basket Brescia to a professional level, the Legadue competition. The Leonessa team performed well, achieving some great results, and produced great players: Ghersetti, Stojkov, Gergati, Bushati and Farioli arrived and the city began to dream big.
The beginning of the season was not very encouraging and this led to the dismissal of coach Furlani: he was substituted by Sandro Dell’Agnello from Livorno, who managed the second part of the season superbly: it was a period of continuous success, which saw the team qualify for the Playoffs, and the team’s historic promotion to Lega Due.
The whole city is now behind the Basket Brescia phenomenon: for their first year in Legadue they decided to keep the backbone of the team, which had done so well the previous season, staying with the Dell’Agnello-Costa duo. The Americans Goldwire and Thompson were added to the roster, as well as the Lithuanian Busma and Andrea Scanzi from Brescia. The promotion of Leonessa did not convince the experts, who considered them as one of the teams most likely to be relegated. The doubts about the effective competitiveness of the team were swept away by the amazing performances of Leonessa, who made the Playoffs (ranked seventh) for the third year in a row: again, as the first year, the Centrale season ended in the first round (defeated 3-1 by Givova Scafati).
A remarkable season was then followed, in certain ways, by a summer to forget: Brescia was in serious difficulty for the first time and there seemed to be no way out. Almost all the members of the past season roster had left (except for Stojkov and Scanzi) and the Dell’Agnello-Costa duo also departed, but as always Leonessa was prepared to fight. They decided to continue: everything started afresh, with the confirmation of the expert assistant-coaches, Andrea Diana and Max Giannoni.
The bench was entrusted to one of the most experienced coaches in the second Italian championship, Alberto Martelossi who, together with Leonessa’s new Sporting Director and Team Manager, Marco Abbiati, started planning for the creation of a new roster for the 2012-2013 season. The team they brought together was of excellent quality: they were joined by experienced and valuable men (noteably Barlos and Brkic), by young people with high hopes, but that still needed to be developed (Lombardi, Fernandez, Loschi and Cuccarolo), as well as by famous players who had already had success in Europe, such as the two Americans Giddens (the former NBA player, and real star of the team) and Jenkins.
The team was characterized by a mix of experience and a desire to win: from the first match, played at home, with a victory against Casale Monferrato, in the Italian Cup, it was possible to see that this team was different, capable of entertaining and enthusing the fans. After an excellent start, although with a couple of setbacks, Leonessa resumed its journey and fought bravely to the end, and after a season in which they moved between 3rd and 5th position, eventually secured 4th place, the result of a great season (Brkic and Martelossi were awarded the best Italian player and the best coach in the championship) which meant that Centrale del Latte faced Forlì, with home advantage, in the first round of the Playoffs.
With two great home victories and a testing away game, Brescia ended the series against Forlì with a 3-0 win, a sensational result. The next round was against the formidable team of Martelossi and Trento (who beat Sigma Barcellona – considered to be the favourites to win the Playoffs – with a resounding 3-0 victory). After suffering in both matches at home, Centrale del Latte played two amazing matches at PalaTrento, meaning they reached the final for the second time in 4 years. The first time the opponent was Trapani, this time they had to face Giorgio Tesi Group Pistoia: the excitement in the city was incredible, but the beginning of the series was not at all promising. Leonessa lost Games 1 and 2, as well as Michael Jenkins, the soul of the team: Brescia, however, reacted as all great teams do, and with the help of its amazing supporters, won Games 3 and 4. Unfortunately in Game 5, and despite the return of Jenkins, the miracle was not repeated: Pistoia were promoted to Serie A.
In the following season, Brescia remained in the list of the best teams of A2, ranked second, behind Verona, at the end of the regular season, under the guidance of Andrea Diana. Leonessa entered the Playoffs and, in the quarterfinals, beat a strong Trieste team, led by Stefano Tonut, after five very hard games, beating them in the crucial fifth game in San Filippo arena. The semi-finals, however, were disappointing. Manital Torino, a team created to get the promotion to Serie A proved to be too strong. Game 2, which took place in Brescia, was fatal. A defeat in front of the supporters (74-85), was then followed by two games at PalaRuffini in Turin – but there was no miracle, and Axilum progressed to the final against Agrigento.
In the 2016-2017 season the new version of A2 started, with 32 teams divided into two groups (east and west), with only one promotion place available. During the regular season, Brescia was tested by talented teams like Treviso (ranked first at the end of the 30 game regular season), Mantova, Verona, Imola, Roseto and Fortitudo Bologna. Centrale del Latte ended the regular season in second place, and so started a long and tiring period of Playoffs, playing 20 games in just over a month, with promotion as the prize.
Leonessa played five games in each session of the postseason, managing to win all the decisive matches, characterized by some brilliant moves, high energy and great strength: against Trapani in the knockout stages, against Derthona in the quarterfinals, against Scafati in the semifinals and, last but not least, against Fortitudo Bologna in the final itself. Eventually, on June 24, Brescia achieved its dream of getting promotion to Serie A, 28 years after it last participated in the championship. This was achieved after thrilling games, (Game 3 against Scafati
will always be one of the epic pages of the history of our club), brilliant victories (the success against Scafati in game 5) and with so much effort, (as in the final against Fortitudo). In the end, however, a new and exceptional page has been added to the book which records Leonessa’s history. It could then step forward into Serie A with great pride.
Leonessa faced the first year of Serie A with a great deal of momentum, taking advantage of the enthusiasm in the city, and indeed, the whole province. The sponsor changed: Centrale del Latte di Brescia left and was replaced by Germani Spa – an important emerging company in the area. The roster also underwent renewal, with the arrival of highly experienced and talented players like Marcus Landry and Luca Vitali, and new faces like the US center player Jared Berggren, Michele Vitali and the youngster, Lee Moore, who was confirmed at the end of an exciting preseason; they joined the existing squad, headed by David Moss.
At the beginning of the championship Leonessa paid the price of having to adjust to the new division, and of an opening series of games which was far from ideal. In the first six games, they were defeated five times, which raised some concerns, but did not affect the enthusiasm. The management confirmed its trust in Andrea Diana, and the roster was added to with the arrival of Christian Burns. The turning point arrived in the seventh game: Brescia beat Brindisi, the start of three consecutive victories which, despite the departure of captain Alessandro Cittadini, increased the value of Germani and propelled the team towards the top half of the league. At the end of the first round, in fact, Leonessa was in seventh position, and had qualified for the Final Eight of the Italian Cup, against Rimini in mid-February.
Possibly the highpoint of Brescia season was the quarterfinal of the Italian Cup in which they beat Reyer Venezia and almost qualified for the final phase, before narrowly losing to a very strong Dinamo Sassari. After a defeat against a strong Avellino team, Germani went through a difficult period, due to a very long list of injuries. In Capo d’Orlando, Michele Vitali received a hand injury which ended his season, while David Moss began to suffer knee problems, which forced him out while on top form. The team reached safety with four games of the regular season remaining. In fact, Leonessa even managed to keep alive the dream of qualifying for the Playoffs until the very last moment. This dream, however, did not come true: the defeat to Pistoia put an end to Brescia’s season, and they ended up finishing tenth in the regular season rankings, the second best position in their history.
The 2017-2018 season will always be a high point in the history of Brescia basketball: Germani, in fact, had an excellent championship where they ranked fourth, reaching their greatest result of all times. Moreover, Andrea Diana’s team almost won the Italian Cup, due to the defeat against Fiat Torino only a few seconds before the end of the match. The season was great right from the start. With nine consecutive victories, the team exceeded all past records, and by the end of 2017 were top of the standings. Once they had qualified for the Final Eight in mid-December, Leonessa remained in the top four positions, and ended the regular season in third place, with 20 victories. The unfortunate death, however, of Marco Solfini, which happened at the end of March, added a note of sorrow to the season.
Brescia also performed well during the Playoffs, beating Openjobmetis Varese over three games and qualifying for the championship semi-finals for the first time in its history. The match against Olimpia Milano reignited an ancient rivalry that goes back thirty years. Brescia beat them in Game 1 and topped the series, their best game played during the five games. The reaction from EA7, however, was very strong, and they were the team that went on to be the champions of Italy (overpowering Dolomiti Energia Trentino in the final). Ultimately it was the quality of their roster which proved to be the difference, with resources much superior than those at the disposal of Germani.
The mission now for Basket Brescia Leonessa, is to consolidate upon what has been achieved in the two seasons since its return to Serie A, and to continue to produce the excellent results achieved last season. Germani will return to the Palaleonessa which, together with Milan, Trento and Turin, will host the games of the Italian Super Cup at the end of September. Moreover, Brescia is getting ready to play its first games in Europe, having completed its registration for the EuroCup; another chapter in the club’s history is about to be written. It is a further step in the magical adventures of one of Italy’s most important basketball teams; a category to which it intends to belong for a long time.